Gippsland Power To Top Of Ladder
Gippsland have cemented their position on the top of the TAC Cup ladder, kicking away from a persistent Dandenong outfit for an assertive 14.10.94 to 8.8.56 victory at Shepley Oval as Anna Harrington reports.
Despite the Stingrays pushing hard in the third quarter, the Power kicked eight goals to two in the final quarter to run away 38-point winners.
Gippsland captain Shaun Wyatt dominated in the midfield ably supported by the Shaun Marusic-led defence, while Brett O’Hanlon and Jackson Dalton provided spark for the Rays.
With both teams missing key players due to the upcoming National Championships, Power coach Adam Dowie said he was pleased to see others step up in their absence.
“Halfway through the third quarter… it probably could have gone either way but the boys really fought on and… responded really well so we [were] really happy with that,” Dowie said.
“We had a lot of first gamers and they all had an impact so that… was something really good to come out of the game.”
Gippsland got off to a flyer in the first quarter, kicking the first two goals, with Shannen Lange slotting the opener after receiving an early free kick.
Dandenong got off the mark through Max Gearon, the bustling midfielder slamming through a major to keep the pressure on the Power.
The Power finished off a solid first quarter when Damien Hector took a sliding mark before cleverly chipping the ball to Matt Northe in the pocket, the forward easily converting to give the Power a three-goal lead at quarter time.
Dandenong kicked off the second quarter in style, Adam Giobbi receiving the ball from O’Hanlon and snapping his first for the day.
But the Power could not be restrained, kicking two quick goals later in the quarter, Jamie Johnstone’s effort extending the lead to 25 at one point.
While Dandenong improved their work through the corridor, Wyatt won the ball all over the ground, leading a dominant Gippsland midfield in repeatedly driving the ball forward.
The Rays hit back when Lange was penalised for holding Nic Tuddenham in the pocket, the gritty ballwinner steering the ball through to bring the margin back to 19 points.
A late Gippsland point nudged the lead out to 20 shortly before the siren, a confident Gippsland entering the main break ahead 6.5.41 to 3.3.21.
Dandenong came out firing in the third quarter, Gearon’s quick thinking paying off as he flicked out a handball to O’Hanlon, who streamed through the forwardline for his first goal.
A Rays resurgence seemed certain as they took control in the midfield and when a 50-metre penalty turned Ryan Morrison’s mark in the pocket into a certain goal, the deficit was cut to five.
Josh Scott helped maintain the visitors’ nerve as he received a neat pass from Wyatt 45 metres out from goal and booted a long bomb from the boundary.
The Stingrays largely failed to make the most of their midfield advantage, only winning the quarter by a goal, entering the final break down by 14.
While Dandenong coach Graeme Yeats urged his troops to keep competing in the final quarter, it was not to be as the Power came out firing.
After O’Hanlon missed a long-range shot for the Stingrays, Luke Thompson seized his first scoring opportunity, dribbling the ball through the goals to give Gippsland a 19-point lead early in the last.
Goalsneak Tom Muir soon provided the highlight of the quarter, sidestepping two Stingrays and slamming the ball between the posts to give his team a 25-point breathing space.
Morrison snared a goal from the pocket to keep his side in touch but the major was not enough to quell a raging Power side, who kicked the next four goals to build an insurmountable 43 point lead.
Billy Rolfe slotted a late consolation goal for the Stingrays but it was a disappointing end to a previously competitive match, Gippsland running out 38-point winners.
While acknowledging the Power’s general dominance of the game, Yeats said his team’s inability to convert, particularly in the third quarter, proved costly.
“We thought we were playing well enough to be really competitive with them and on the scoreboard we were reasonably close,” Yeats said.
“We never got in front, we were always behind but there were periods where I thought we were right in the game and got enough [of the ball].
“The problem with stats is we got enough of the ball and we got enough inside-50s but we just didn’t convert.”
This week, the Power return home to Morwell Football Ground to take on fellow top four side North Ballarat, while the Stingrays will take on the sixth-placed Eastern Ranges, both sides benefiting from a seven-day break.